Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login
Posted: 5/19/2003 9:24:42 PM EDT
[url]http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57802-2003May15.html[/url] War Hogs For the conflict in Iraq, the Senate went all out -- for pork By Dave Barry Sunday, May 18, 2003; Page W40 It is time to sing about some unsung heroes of the recent war in Iraq. These heroes were not, personally, in Iraq, but they were serving in a place that is just as foreign and threatening to the average American: the United States Senate. Our story begins back in March. The war had started, and the Bush administration asked Congress for an emergency appropriation of $75 billion to pay for it. The House of Representatives, showing a disappointing lack of vision, basically just approved the money. But not the Senate. No sir. Because the United States Senate is not a bunch of "yes persons" who "rubber-stamp" every bill that comes down the pike. And so the Senate, exercising its constitutional responsibility, took a hard look at the bill to pay for the war in Iraq, and discovered a shocking omission: There was nothing in there about sea lampreys. In case you are unfamiliar with national security, I should explain that sea lampreys are nasty parasite fish that latch on to other fish and suck their blood. The only known way to stop them is to equip all the other fish with tiny waterproof crucifixes. But seriously, lampreys are a problem, and so Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont decided that the war-funding bill should include $500,000 to control lampreys in Lake Champlain, which is right next to Vermont and therefore very strategic. The sea lamprey effort was only one of more than $600 million worth of new items that various senators, both Republican and Democrat, wanted to insert into the war bill. These items included: feed subsidies for catfish farmers; $50 million for the shipbuilding industry; $3.3 million to repair a dam in (surprise!) Vermont; $10 million for a research station at the South Pole; $98 million for an agricultural research facility in Iowa; a provision that would have allowed senators to send postcards to more voters at taxpayers' expense; and another provision that would have allowed wild Alaskan salmon to be labeled "organic." According to the New York Times, many of these extra items were slipped into the bill at the last minute by the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-OINK), who represents Alaska, which is the largest state, which is good, because that way it has room for all the taxpayer money that old Ted ships there. The Times said that "many senators never realized" that these items had been stuck into the war bill they approved. (Members of Congress rarely read the bills they vote on; they're too busy serving the public.) When word got out about the extra projects, Sen. John McCain, a big spoilsport about this kind of thing, raised a stink. He said that even if these projects were worthwhile, they had no business being in the war bill. Or, as he put it, "the sea lamprey does not, in my opinion, pose a clear and present danger to our national security." Various House members also criticized the senators for using a national emergency to avoid normal legislative scrutiny and make taxpayers pay for flagrant pork, although, to their credit, none of them pointed out that "Flagrant Pork" would be a good name for a rock band. This criticism really got up the dander of the senators who pushed to have the pork -- I mean, the additional items -- put into the war bill. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania claimed that sending out taxpayer-financed postcards to announce his public meetings was -- he actually said this -- "directly related to the war effort" because "meeting with the people of Pennsylvania is an important part of our job, including informing them of the war effort." Did I mention that Arlen is running for reelection? No? Well, it's probably irrelevant. Anyway, House leaders were really upset about the extra items in the war bill, and demanded that the Senate remove them. This made Sen. Stevens so mad that, according to the Associated Press, he told reporters: "I'm just sorry we repealed the law on dueling." On behalf of the taxpayers, let me say: We're sorry, too, Sen. Stevens! If you want to bring dueling back, the pistols are on us! Anyway, in the end, the Senate caved, and most of the extra items were yanked from the bill. For now, the voters of Pennsylvania remain dangerously uninformed about the war, and the fish of Vermont remain tragically vulnerable to terrorist lampreys. So, this time at least, these bold senators failed in their mission. But the point is, darn it, they had the courage to try. And I'm sure that, one day, they'll try again: They'll see their chance, and they'll make their move, swimming swiftly up to their prey and fastening their suckers onto the . . . No, wait, sorry. I'm thinking of the lampreys.
Link Posted: 5/19/2003 10:50:18 PM EDT
Everyone should read the book Unintended Consequences if they really want to be sickened by our political process.
Top Top